An Opening Day start against the White Sox that seemed to be in jeopardy now appears to be shifting back toward a sure thing for Sabathia.
He was nailed in the left forearm by a line drive off the bat of Toronto's Reed Johnson in his final Grapefruit League outing Wednesday at Chain of Lakes Park, but his arm was only bruised, not broken.
With full range of motion in the arm and the swelling going down, Sabathia said he sees no reason why he shouldn't be able to throw all his pitches, even his curveball. He'll test that theory Friday, when he attempts to play catch and throw a bullpen session that would qualify as his last spring tuneup.
"I'm in no pain," Sabathia said. "The swelling's going down, and I'm feeling pretty good."
That, in turn, must have the Indians feeling pretty good.
With hopes of bouncing back from a disappointing 2006 and contending in the ultra-competitive American League Central, the Tribe has, perhaps, three or four players whose absence would drastically change the complexion of the season, and Sabathia is high on that list.
Sabathia said he hasn't seen the replay of the incident that, for a time, had general manager Mark Shapiro preparing to bring No. 1 Triple-A Buffalo starter and top prospect Adam Miller back up to big-league camp.
"I've gotten calls from a lot of people who said it looked pretty bad," Sabathia said.
Yes, it did look bad. Johnson's line drive came on Sabathia's second pitch of the game, and it was a head-high shot back to the mound. Sabathia used his forearm and his glove to protect himself and was fortunate the ball didn't strike his throwing hand.
The strike to the arm put an abrupt end to Sabathia's Grapefruit League season, in which he went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in five starts.
Having already lost third starter Cliff Lee for at least the first two weeks of the season and replacing him with youngster Fausto Carmona, the Indians certainly could not afford another blow to the season-opening rotation. They are counting on Sabathia building off an impressive '06, in which he went 12-11 with a 3.22 ERA in 28 starts.